Okay, first off, I must warn anyone reading this that the images below are very disturbing. Trust me! Take my word for it! If you cannot handle gruesome dead wildlife images, please back out of this blog upon reading the last paragraph and take my advice to slowly scroll down the page, ensuring you do not see the last images I posted. You have been warned.
So, last Thursday I get home from work and after a bit of puttering I am outside checking the yard, the feeders and changing the bird baths. It's pretty quiet, they must have emptied the feeders before noon and the baths are all muddy and barely any water left. The extreme heat has me changing the water many times a day when possible.
I'm walking towards the bird pole out in the middle of the garden. The pole puts 4 feeders about 12 to 14 ft above ground, with a metal umbrella 3/4's of the way up to keep the Squirrels from getting the bounty of peanuts hanging in the one feeder.
Feeders at the pole system high above the gardens. I use a claw rake to bring them down for filling.
I notice a bird on one of the tube feeders. But after a couple seconds of focus on it as I'm walking closer, I notice something is not right. For one, the bird is not moving. Another thing, the bird is not perched. At my view point I can see the body and it's seemingly hovering along side the feeder. And as I move in closer I see something is really wrong... the bird obviously dead, it's hanging, and the head is a couple inches away from the body, just hanging by a thread of muscle. It had been there for sometime today, the blood was dried and as I brought the feeder down, the head was dried and stuck to the top of the feeder. While House Sparrows are not high on my list of faves, they are enjoyable in the dog days of summer or any other time when no other birds are around. They add a soundtrack to the backyard and bring it to life. So I couldn't help but feel bad looking at this bird in such a horrible state, wondering what the hell happened.
I immediately thought Hawk or Kestrel, perhaps snagging the bird on the pole system as I noticed Sparrow feathers stuck to the black bar above the feeder, and maybe the bird of prey dropped it's meal. But there was little damage to the body, like talon tears or grab marks.
I buried the bird, washed the feeder, filled it again and up it went.
I watched the birds for a while after this, still puzzled at what happened while I was at work. I observed one particular Common Grackle chasing every Sparrow it saw. It was knocking them off the feeders, and occasionally flew to the ground and chased and pecked at them in the garden.
Common Grackle at one of the bird baths. They sure remind me of a T-Rex with their stare and their strut.
Grackles are a part of the Jay family and they can be a bit carnivorous. I've seen it before with the Jays, the Grackles and even the Starlings. If they don't eat the smaller birds, they sure don't have a problem killing them. Best example was watching a small mouse come running out from under my shed one afternoon at spilled bird seed. Two Jays took notice to it, shrieked and beat the hell out of the mouse. They pecked it and threw it around, pecking some more and so on for a couple minutes until the mouse lay still on the ground. Then suddenly this Starling flew in, grabbed the little mouse and flew off to the cedars with it and ate it!
It's the only thing that makes any sense of this all to me especially after seeing this one Grackle being quite aggressive to all the Sparrows that flew in.
Back in the early days of backyard bird feeding, we used to make a joke when the Grackles flew in and started picking on the House Sparrows, saying stuff like "snip snip" or "off with their heads". We at this time had only heard tales of such brutal behavior. Of course neither Angie or myself wanted to see it, and joking about it was better than sitting there saying "Oh my gawd, here come the murderers! Are we gonna see a slaughter?!?!" When you are new to something and you hear wild tales, your head can fill with crazy thoughts and visuals.
I'm still shocked by this but it's not going to deter me from feeding everyone. I don't hate the Grackles now because of this. The wild world can be brutal at times and us as humans, living where we do, must be thankful that our society is not like this, survival of the fittest (biggest and hungriest).
Okay, if you are still hanging on, here are a few photos to really put an image to what I found...
First visual of the bird, but between work exhaustion and the heat, it took me a few seconds to realize something was not right.
Um, ya, brain is really wondering what the heck at this point.
No joy was to be had taking these pics but how could I explain this to anyone?
It reminds me of some horror movie, like here is a warning sign that things are going to get worse if you continue. Yes I am quite imaginative.
Well, if you sat through all this, haven't screamed in horror, shed a tear, threw up all over your key board; I thank you for taking the time out for a not so great story I shared. Here is my thank you gift to you...
A dirty look from our princess Meadow. Haha! Its okay, she gives everyone this look except her daddy and mommy.
Okay, how about this? Meet Tiguaq the Snowy Owl. He's the newest addition to the team of educational birds at CPF. I had the pleasure of finally meeting him last Wednesday. What a beauty! I was helping our friend Tracy do some upgrades at the wing of the barn.